Atlantic Grey or common

It's time to see a seal

Pembrokeshire is blessed with some of the best coastline in the world and with protected clean waters, it’s home to some of the best marine life in Wales, and seals are no exception.

West Wales is called home by about 5000 Atlantic grey seals which are the larger of the two UK seal species. Their scientific name is Halichoerus grypus meaning hooked-nose sea pig!

What to look for:

Pembrokeshire is home to two types of seal the Atlantic grey and the Common or Harbour seal. A keen eye will distinguish the different shades of grey and brown on rocky beaches or spot a bobbing head followed by a bulbous body swimming just offshore.

Common or Harbour seals vary between a blackish brown to tan or grey but their tummies are usually lighter, and they have a singular pattern of spots. Their heads are rounder than the Atlantic grey.

The Atlantic grey seals have larger sized and longer heads with a sloping nose rather like a ‘roman nose’. Their unique pattern of darker blotches and spots can be used to identify individuals.

Atlantic grey seals

Where to find them:

At the foot of the cliffs around Moylegrove, Strumble Head, St Davids and Cemaes Head is a good place to start. The secluded inaccessible beaches make the seals feel safe enough to  ‘haul up’ to snooze and digested their latest catch but also to give birth to their fluffy white pups. Spend the day walking the coastal path and you’re sure to find the bobbing head or a nicely disguised seal on the beach.

Another great way to see them is to hop on one of the many boat trips especially around the island of Ramsey or Skomer Island. Ramsey is the home to one of the largest breeding colonies in the British Isles with around 100 seals living around the island but this number swells to a thousand in February and March.

The third option is to enter the realm of the deep yourself with an instructor, of course – sea kayaking sessions often reveal hard to reach or hidden areas that the seals like to call home. Seal are inquisitive and you may find that they pop up out of the water close by just to see who you are!

Kirsty Morris
Grey seals and their white pups can be seen from mid-August until December
Mike Alexander for The Wildlife Trust South and West Wales
Skomer island seal pup

Be careful.

In pupping season (mid-August until December) check that the area isn’t under special protection and never try to interact with pups or adults even if the pup seems abandoned. Mothers will often leave their babies onshore alone while they go fishing but they will be back before long.  If a mother feels threatened then they will abandon their pup.

Sometimes you will see young pups on accessible beaches, if you do happen to see a young pup please keep away and if you have a dog with you keep them on the lead at all times, please. The Pembrokeshire Marine Code has produced a very useful guide of what to do if you see a pup or any wildlife in distress in Pembrokeshire.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and National Trust Rangers organise guided seal watching trip during the pupping season – keep an eye open for these really informative trips.

For more helpful information download our guide to seal watching in Pembrokeshire